Apple unveiled a platform for controlling everything from your garage door to your thermostat today at its World Wide Developers Conference. But it was hardly the centerpiece of today's keynote.
Senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi spent all of a minute and a half breezing through the framework, called HomeKit, which can also use Siri voice commands to control individual or groups of connected home devices. "With Siri integration, you could say something like, 'Get ready for bed,' and be assured your garage door is closed, your door is locked, the thermostat is lowered, and your lights are dimmed," Federighi said.
By opening up Siri to control third-party peripherals, the smart home experience will become infinitely more seamless. Up until now, controlling a smart device has meant unlocking a mobile device, launching an app, and then making adjustments—a bit too much friction for lowering the volume of the TV or dimming the lights.
According to IDG, the Internet of Things will grow into an $8.9 trillion market by 2020. Despite their adoption, connected home devices have for the most part operated independently—though some companies have tried to unify such products with their own solutions. The ZigBee Alliance, for example, provides standards for smart devices while SmartThings and Revolv are both platforms that support a variety of connected products, including Honeywell's thermostats, Philips' line of lights, and Belkin's energy products.
Apple has already lined up a number of partners for Homekit, including iDevices, iHome, Cree, Honeywell, Haier, Philips, Kwikset, Netatmo, and Withings. Instead of juggling different apps, its platform will provide a common network protocol to enhance security (there have been concerns of the vulnerability of connected home products) and make it easier for users to set up new devices.
Such devices can be grouped into scenes, so they can be be controlled with a single tap or voice command, like the get-ready-for-bed command Federighi mentioned. The ability to set up and control scenes is not entirely new. Logitech, for example, has a high-end universal remote that allows users to set moods. To watch a movie, users can preset a button to turn on the appropriate entertainment system devices, set the TV to the proper input, and dim Philips' Hue bulbs.
HomeKit is aimed at app and hardware developers for now, and there was no word on when consumers might see a working app or integrated hardware. It's still unclear what Homekit's standards are and how consumer electronics companies can opt into Apple's platform.
Could a Google-owned Nest be controlled by Apple's platform? Fast Company has reached out to Apple, and we'll update this if we hear back.